Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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18 Sivan 5766 - June 14, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Palestinians Lied with Deliberate Malice

by M Plaut and Yated Ne'eman Staff

An IDF committee investigating the deaths of seven Palestinians in an explosion at a Gaza beach last Friday has concluded that the IDF did not cause the explosion. The flip side, which the committee did not address, is that the Palestinian sources who blamed Israel were deliberately lying when they fingered Israel as the cause of the tragedy.

From the beginning, the Palestinians would not cooperate with Israeli attempts to find out what happened. They at first blamed navy shelling, but that was quickly ruled out. They obliterated or removed all evidence at the scene of the explosion. Normally, the debris that remains after such an event provides quite a bit of information about the source of the weapons that caused it.

In this case, several of the victims were being treated in Israeli hospitals. Unconfirmed reports said that Palestinians attempted to remove shrapnel from the bodies of the wounded being treated in Israeli hospitals. Nonetheless, material was recovered from the some of the unfortunate victims, and it indicated that the source of their wounds was not an IDF artillery shell.

Israeli intelligence sources said that the probable cause of the explosion was an underground bomb planted by Palestinian terror groups to try to prevent Israeli commandos from coming ashore to fight them, as they recently did. Israeli intelligence has seen the recent activity of Hamas in planting such weapons. Although it could not pinpoint the site, it knew that the area had been mined.

The investigating committee had a great deal of information to review, including film footage shot by Arab television stations at the scene soon after the tragedy. These films showed that the crater left on the beach by the blast seems to have been made by an explosion from below (a mine), not a hit from above like an artillery shell.

A report in WorldNetDaily about two weeks ago quoted a Hamas official as saying that the decision had already been made to end the restraint of Hamas against Israel and to go on the offensive. He said that Hamas had been building up its military abilities in the period of unilateral restraint.

Initially after the incident, the army was leaning toward accepting the Palestinian assertion that the disaster was caused by an errant Israeli artillery shell. Although the IDF spokesman's initial announcement did not formally accept responsibility, it expressed deep regret for the deaths and announced an end to the artillery fire on Gaza until the incident had been investigated. The foreign media unequivocally blamed Israel for the deaths, and the Israel media tended to do the same. Several columnists wrote emotional arguments about shedding innocent blood.

The committee, headed by IDF Major General Meir Klifi, is to officially present its findings to the defense minister and the chief of staff on Tuesday night. However word of its conclusions was reported earlier in the day. The main uncertainty is exactly how definite the conclusions will be.

The army hopes that the findings will clear its name and it is up to the diplomatic services to get the message out to world opinion. The defense minister said that Israel would conduct a "propaganda offensive" across the globe to prove its innocence.

The main unresolved issue in the army's evidence is the sixth shell — actually, the first to be fired — whose landing site has not been determined. From an examination of the cannon, the army is convinced that the shell could not have fallen on the beach, almost half a kilometer from its intended target. Also it was fired about ten minutes before the blast occurred. Gaza Division Commander Brig.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said that the sites that were shelled by the IDF were the places from where Kassam rockets were launched. He noted those places were frequently targeted by the IDF, and were known to be dangerous places where a family would not go for a picnic.

The IDF is hoping that doubts about the cause of the blast will undermine public support for Hamas, and for its announced resumption of attacks on Israel. Last September Hamas weaponry exploded during a rally in Jabalya and killed 21 bystanders. Hamas at first accused Israel and launched a rocket barrage, but Palestinian doubts about the Hamas account, combined with the IDF's harsh response, caused Hamas to cease its fire two days later.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), an organization whose reports are widely relied upon by the United Nations and other organizations, said, according to a report on Israel National News, "PCHR's preliminary investigation indicates that the attack which killed seven members of the same family took place at approximately 16:40 on Friday, 9 June 2006. An Israeli naval boat stationed off the coast of Beit Lahya fired seven successive artillery shells at civilians on the beach in the Waha area, north of Beit Lahya. The shells landed on the beach, which had been crowded with civilian men, women and children at the time. . . . Israeli television Channel 2 broadcast footage of the Israeli boat firing the shells at the beach, with one of the navy soldiers scanning the beach with binoculars; thus indicating that the crime had been perpetrated with a premeditated intent to kill."

There was in fact no naval shelling at the time in that area, and no one broadcast footage of it. Although it is detailed, and has the ring of truth, it is entirely made up and many details are manifestly wrong. (See the editorial in this issue, "Fighting Words.") However no correction was issued.

Israel National News quoted Gen. (ret.) Yom Tov Samiyeh, who was once the military commander of the area, as saying, "It is almost certain that the incident was an accident caused by the Palestinians, and that the Palestinians took advantage of the situation to besmirch Israel. I imagine, that there was some sort of mine, or at worst, even a setup that the Palestinians arranged."

He added that during his years of army service as IDF Southern District Commander, he experienced a number of incidents in which the Arabs set up attacks on citizens to make it look like Israel had done them.

It may be that the incident was staged in order to provide a pretext for Hamas to resume attacks.


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